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 “Hard Times: Martin Hägglund’s “This Life” and the Pomodoro Technique” | LARB :

Existential dread is, at a basic level, the motivation to use the PT. In reaching for the timer, or one of its affiliate tomato-themed productivity apps or online clocks, like Pomello, PomoDone, Clockwork Tomato, Pomotodo, Marinara Timer, or Timerdoro, you implicitly acknowledge that the time of your life, which is finite, feels out of your control. You want that control back. Focus on what you care about, the productivity gurus coo. Our product allows you to do what you want in the little time that you have.

Our lifetime is perhaps all that we actually have. This is the premise of philosopher Martin Hägglund’s recent book, This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom. “What belongs to each one of us – what is irreducibly our own – is not property or goods but the time of our lives.” Our lifetime is ours and finite, and valuable because it is finite. The truth of this constitutive finitude is recognized whenever employers compensate you for your time in the form of a wage. It is the “practical self-understanding implicit” in our custom of trading free time to make a living. Finite lifetime makes other kinds of value possible and intelligible.

And yet, under capitalism, to be wealthy does not mean to have free time, in the sense of having time in excess of that which is spent on survival. Under capitalism, wealth is understood as profit. Hägglund spends much of his book within this contradiction. We take our first steps out of it, he argues, by revaluating value. Wealth ought to be consistently understood as the socially cultivated capacity “to engage the question of what to do on Monday morning, rather than being forced to go to work in order to survive.” To be wealthy – to live a spiritually free life – is, according to Hägglund, to use your allotted time for commitments with which you identify, rather than in the service of maximizing capital accumulation. You do what you care about in a state of spiritual freedom. You do what you want in the little time that you have.